Non-Zealand

Reconciling the ineffable

It’s a mystery to me how a person can disagree with someone without seeming like an asshole.

I’m sure theoretically it’s possible to have a pleasant conversation with someone who disagrees with you.

Social media makes it possible to filter a lot of what makes us so intolerable in person.

God damn, I have a high and broad forehead. Actually, forehead doesn’t fully describe what that is. Maybe escarpment is the more accurate term. They could get a hectare of corn out of that motherfucker. I need to put a layer of topsoil on my forehead and sit outside for a few days. Monetize that bitch. If they can do it to Chia Pets, why not to people with excess forehead surface area? That real estate is lying fallow, completely underexploited. People with really high hairlines should be able to feed themselves with rotating crops to maintain nitrogen stasis. The world has a huge population to feed. We can help, if we all do our part.

I like realism. When I put stuff out there , I want people who I will never meet in person to know just what a difficult person I am in real life.

But I don’t want to alienate anyone who I love and/or like that.

When I alienate someone, I like to take my time, to make sure everyone is having fun. If you’ve received a form letter terminating our acquaintance, you’ll know what I mean.

The pictures are intended to break up the text. I don’t have anything to say about this photo, otherwise.

But as much as I’ve tried to tone down my excitement, some things cannot pass without comment.

Presenting Exhibit A, Ken Hutcherson. This charming personality has obligingly time-traveled from the 15th Century Spanish Inquisition, to join us here in the 21st century, disguised as a self-aggrandizing media whore who just learned his political expiration date. Click the link, and you can hear him being interviewed by a christian radio host suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Oh, it’s a hoot.

Hutcherson is upset because the Republicans in his state wouldn’t let him give 90-minute sermons to potential donors about how the homosexual agenda is ruining this country. That’s why the voters of Washington didn’t overturn same-sex marriage in the recent elections, he says.

He also condemns churches that don’t help him ‘win back’ the word ‘gay’ and the emblem of the rainbow from the evil, but stylishly-outfitted authors of the gay agenda, who all live in a giant pink human skull carved out of a mountain and painted a fabulous cornflower blue. Hutcherson sums up his raison d’être nicely here:

Don’t forget guys, when you think about pastor Hutcherson out there, think about the gayest guy you know. I am sick and tired of the homosexuals taking words that God has given us, I am sick and tired of the homosexual community taking our rainbow when god gave us that promise that he would not destroy the earth with water again. We have just become irrelevant, we are just sissified, we are evangeli-fish with no spiritual vertebrae and we need to wake up.

It sounds like Pastor Ken needs to relax, maybe take a long weekend somewhere, like in an isolated Log Cabin. It’s a lumber state, where a lot of guys make it their business to know and cherish wood. They can show you the way.

Or better yet, maybe Ken Hutcherson can shut the fuck up. He’s being a word-Nazi, and he’s trying to hog up all the rainbows.

In Hutcherson’s rainbow-gay universe, religion, specifically christianity, has the copyright on appropriate human behavior.

What makes me so angry about this is Hutcherson stakes this claim based on the literature of an emergent bronze age shepherd kingdom. And he’s not alone. A lot of people think that the bible is the primary source of moral behavior. The reality is that whatever instruction on human behavior is found in any religion, is not a cause of human behavior, primarily. It is a function of human behavior, then perhaps a cause.

The new and old testaments at best are the ethos of their times and places. The old testament gives instructions for the proper conduct of genocide and the ground rules of slavery. Its feature set-piece is very specific about worshiping god, but not about anything useful.

He couldn’t give us a commandment like ‘thou shalt not schtup your sister, lest ye bear forth cognitively impaired banjo savants. Selah.’ What, god ran out of ink, or something? Moses have to be someplace; only wanted the ‘nutshell’?

Likewise, if the old testament forbids gayness, that’s largely because it didn’t know that sexuality is socially and biologically determined, that homosexuality exists throughout the animal kingdom, that humanity’s closest relatives, the Bonobos, use sex as part of every social transaction.

Our primate cousins are nothing more than a continuous, live action version of Girls Gone Wild. Male and female, they’re all bisexual.

About seven million years ago, our ancestors started wondering if it was such a good thing to have an orgy every time the in-laws came over for dinner around the termite hill. Too much of a good thing, you know? There were termites not being eaten.

Hutcherson embodied, for me, the elevation of unfounded assertions over reality. This seems to be the M-O of the religious and the faithful.

From alien abductions to Allah to Jesus, it’s fun playing make-believe. But guess what, Hutcherson? Your invisible friend doesn’t have a say in anything real. Tell your god to catch up to the 21st century because we’re leaving without him.

See? I still can’t help being an asshole. But let me try.

On a practical, functional, level our real experience is far more influenced by what we can describe, and predict and agree upon as a kind of commons of reality, than by ancient texts. Humans are complex socio-biological creatures, easily prodded into what are loosely termed as good and evil acts, based on some aspect of our feelings and thoughts. It’s the differential between those urges and the entire complex of our being that makes religion and belief more or less of a good.

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The suffering of not suffering

All this talk about a hurricane hitting near New York is getting a little old, don’t you think?

Destructive winds, scores of deaths, a flooded-out subway system. Alright, we get the picture. It’s a disaster. Have a biscuit. Next subject.
But no, not “next subject”. Hurricane Sandy is all anyone could talk about this week.
And that perfectly illustrates the level of depravity I’m dealing with here.
People keep asking: “Did everyone back home make it through the storm ok?”
I kept thinking: What the fuck do you care?
I kept wondering if, perhaps, they would like to send my family a parcel of Wattie’s baked beans. It would come with personal messages of hope and wishes of dryness and an urging for them to “be safe”.  Addresses would be exchanged, greeting cards posted on appropriate occasions. Perhaps a strong personal bond will form between two pen pals. One will write about indoor plumbing, and the other will write something related to New Zealand, in return.

“No they’re not ok,” I tell them. “But what’s that got to do with the storm?”

People back home are fine. School was called off and my sister’s kids spent the first day painting uni-brows and beards on one another’s faces. They wanted to look more like their grandmother. (I won’t say which one). I’m not sure what this face painting phase says about my locality in the human genome. But I do know one thing: I’m damned if I’m going to sit here and have anyone explain it to me. Some things are better left a mystery.
But back to my point. Where the people I cared most about are concerned, it wasn’t bad.
I don’t want to seem callous. The deaths that struck me hardest were the ones where people were killed by trees crashing into their houses or cars. I don’t really know if anyone can truly say one way to die is worse than another. They all seem to be rather dismal options. But this is nature-on-human violence, gruesome, not just too close to home, but in the middle of the living room. Like a large-screen television with a Werner Herzog movie playing.
There will be a huge economic impact, as well. Infrastructure repairs, preparations for what is most likely to be a developing climatic pattern. And there’s the property owners. I can’t wait to see how insurance companies will get out of it this time. The violence is over, at least with the vast majority of New York and New Jersey emerging more or less intact. That’s swell.

But it isn’t news. The suffering of New Yorkers has been duly recorded. Everybody BEEN knowing about it, as we used to say in the Bronx.

So when co-workers asked, in their thoughtless way, how my people in New York were doing, it hurt me. It really, really hurt me. What about how Simon is doing? Did you even once stop to consider what I was going through reading about what other people were going through? Do you know how hard it was for me to look at all of the MTA’s Flickr photographs of the storm’s damage to subway and commuter rail infrastructure? Do you have any idea what that’s like for me? I hate using Flickr.
I had a rough week, too, you know. I had to cancel my Internet Service Provider, Orcon, because Orcon is a piece of shit company whose name reminds me of a piece of shit cartoon from my childhood.
****ALERT*****ALERT*****THIS IS A BORING PART*****PLEASE BE ADVISED
We didn’t have internet service for six weeks, forcing us to use a 3G stick modem purchased from Orcon’s competitor, Telecom. We arranged for a technician to look at our modem. They scheduled repair on a weekday, because as every fucking utility in the world knows, everyone is home on a weekday.
Finally, they did one good thing. They called me a week later because my issue hadn’t cleared their system and arranged for a technician to come on a Saturday. (Boring part continues below the photo)
(Continue boring part)
That’s how, after about five weeks, we got our internet and phone line back. For two days. It went dead again. I put in another service ticket. But Orcon’s policy is to give themselves a comfortable three days to respond to a service call, just in time for one of their employees to get off their bony asses. Of course, all this time without service, we’re still paying for it. Two days went by, and that was it. For $150, I canceled the service, and it will be worth every penny.
Two things may happen.
First, Orcon may surprise us with a charge in addition to what we owe according to the agent who cancelled our service. Supposedly, this is $114 for our last bill, and $150 for breaking our contract. Considering the purpose-built incompetence and opacity that make service providers such a delight, I fully expect to face an additional charge.
Second. Despite paying all bills by direct debit, our final charges will somehow enter Orcon’s system as “delinquent” and without attempting to contact us first to settle the dispute, our account will be turned over to a collection agency.  This has happened to several of my friends dealing with a variety of companies.
***END TEDIOUS JEREMIAD***
On top of that, I had to deal with Jacquie’s new idea for Vince, our kitten. He’s getting bigger, and a little restless inside our small flat. Jacquie wants to try putting him on a leash.
I tried to argue with her. I said, if I saw someone walking toward me with a cat on a leash, I’d think, “What a twat.” (Especially in Parnell). But Jacquie is determined to go through with it, and drag me down with her so we’ll both look like twats. And if that weren’t enough, I left my mobile phone charger at work. So anyone thinking that my people back home deserve more human kindness than me, I ask you, aren’t we the same, in the end? When someone’s a prick, do I not kvetch?
The pathetic truth is, I’m suffering from catastrophe envy. I didn’t give the hurricane much thought until my Tuesday morning.
I was too busy enjoying the best Spring we’ve had since I moved here three years ago. It’s been beeeeeeeautiful. But then I saw all the posts on Facebook, and read the articles and saw the pictures.
What was going on in New York City was difficult to get my head around. There had never been a hurricane like Sandy that I could recall in my 38 or so years in New York. When I was growing up, news casters would breathlessly sensationalize a tropical storm. Hurricane Gloria scared the schools shut, but dissipated and continued up the coast , leaving behind warm, sunny day. My friend from down the street told me we were in the eye, probably about the time Gloria had reached Massachusetts.
That’s the kind of hurricane I knew. We survived tropical storms blown out of proportion by hyperbolic media hungry for ad revenue. And goddamn it, we liked them.
This was when I realized something. New York and I had been through a lot together. There were the two blackouts, two muggings, three minor earthquakes, and a really bad acid trip during which my legs fused together and my only solace was a late-night rerun of Mr. Belvedere. There was that family of rats dying in my basement apartment. There was September 11 and a GWAR/X-Cops show. There were a dozen home-bound commutes when, after waiting on a subway platform for 20 minutes, coming off a night shift at the New York Post, a maintenance worker would say, “You know there ain’t no train coming,” as they went on with their shift.
But I could never add Hurricane Sandy to my CV.  And as self-indulgent, and tone-deaf as this will undoubtedly seem, that’s a real downer. Because as soon as the subways are running again, everyone in there will have graduated in the same class, with a shared, dramatic experience, and I will be one disaster less a New Yorker.

Because I grew up in a hovel

Sometimes I think about what movies my life most resembles.

Selection depends on circumstance.

For example, if I have to eat dinner with Jacquie and her relatives, or if an airplane were to crash into my head, those days would be like Alien and Die Hard, respectively.

There are plenty of other parallels, though, ranging from the obvious to the oblique. When I floss my teeth, of course I’m going to see myself as Dustin Hoffman doing the interrogation scene with Lawrence Olivier in Marathon Man.

But when Jacquie comes home after a difficult, endless day helping Auckland’s mentally ill community, it’s hard to say. Life then seems like a mystifying pastiche of Tina Turner’s segment in Tommy and any adaptation of Jane Eyre, take your pick. Imagine the daughter of a Victorian parvenu, in a mini-dress, overindulging on some ‘queer’ mushrooms she’d found in a cow patty, winding up eight hours later in an asylum, signing over her dad’s estate to the warden, and you’ll get the visuals. Jacquie often comes home in a foul mood, and goes straight over to open the windows because “there are bad airs” in the lounge.

So analogy by film is that handy way I chart my progress toward perfection as a human being, and away from being like Adam Sandler.

This comes easiest, most days, if I compare my life to Star Wars. It’s not just because the original epic bore witness to the final, historic transformation of cinema from theater-based entertainment to brand-based enterprise, but mostly because people tend to mistake me for Harrison Ford.

True, the comparison may strain the credulity of skeptics. Never mind the fact that, like Han Solo, I too have a pet companion that is furry and adventurous and enjoys licking his own rectum. It’s just too difficult for those die-hard fans out there to imagine Han Solo as a nasally, early middle-aged, trade magazine editor whose greatest thrill is to sleep past 8:30 on a Saturday morning. The parallel goes much deeper than that. The women in both our lives condescend to us as their social inferiors.

This manifests in my case whenever Jacquie perceives disorder in our small apartment. There is a constant battle here between tidiness and clutter and somehow I’m always on the wrong team. No matter what I do or don’t do, no matter how dirty or clean the place is, Jacquie always greets me with the same chiding statement.

“I know you grew up in a hovel in the Bronx,” it begins, “but you really need to [insert maintenance request here].”

It irks me that Jacquie uses the Bronx against me. Like she’s the frigging duchess of Kent.

I tell her, “Honey, you’re a Westie. I’m lucky the car isn’t up on cinderblocks in the driveway and I don’t have two kids, one that looks mysteriously like the milkman and another that displays virtuosity on the banjo, but can’t wipe the drool his face.”

What’s really going on? Self promotion

I have to confess that the preceding was not much more than a set-up with punch lines to a couple of jokes which weren’t even funny to begin with.

While some aspects of the back story, such as how I measure my life against my favorite movies, are indeed factual, the narrative as a whole isn’t “really true”.

This disclaimer seems important in this age of dimming. Last week, a Discovery Channel programme drew attention to the network as the fraudulent purveyor of ignorance that it is. This is the cable channel in the US that pretends to take an interest in science, then airs programmes about UFOs and Noah’s Ark. It recently aired a program called Mermaids: The Body Found. Apparently, the channel’s documentary-style “science fiction” was so indistinguishable from its “science”-style documentaries, that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration felt it necessary to issue a statement to clarify that there is no evidence for the existence of mermaids.

It’s always fun to have a laugh, followed by a long sob, at American ignorance and the Americans that profit therefrom.

Like two weeks ago when Oreo Cookies launched its marketing campaign in honor of gay pride. The campaign featured a speculative cookie made from a dozen layers of colored lard corresponding to the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag.

This, of course, drew the ire of cultural conservatives who decided to “vote with their feet” away from Facebook, where the campaign appeared.

Their reaction stood in stark contrast to the majority’s enthusiasm and support for this blatant, if sensible and correct, marketing overture.

In the minority were those outraged and alarmed by “yet another liberal company destroying our religious values and teaching immorality”. What kind of people feel morally threatened by a cookie? They seem mystified and alarmed that the reality of nature, biology and civil justice has thoroughly encroached on the territory formerly held by the literature and institutions of their Neolithic reckoning. The salt of the Earth. You know. Morons.

They promised on Facebook never to buy an Oreo cookie again. But I don’t buy that. I imagine these are not the kind of people to pass up on corn syrup. I was so irritated and amused by their hollow protests that I decided to “like” the Oreo cookie Facebook page. I held out this olive branch, a “family safe joke that everyone will love: What’s dark and round and full of cream?”

Ok, I have to confess again that the only reason I mentioned the ignorance and Oreo things is because, once again, I wanted to tell more jokes I thought of recently.

So, for real. To make up for the bad jokes, I’m going to close this post with a couple amusing videos.

First, something that actually happened in Auckland

Last week, I went to pick up some takeaways from a new Thai restaurant that opened a block from us.

Soon after I got there, the most hilarious thing happened.

Actually, the funny part comes after this video ends. Basically what happens is a woman comes in after me to put in an order.

When she’s finished ordering, the cashier looks up happily at her.

“Will there be anything else, sir?” the cashier says.

The customer looks puzzled, unsure how to respond.

“No, that will be all,” she finally says.

The cashier smiled and nodded.

“That will be $14.95, sir,” he said.

Which is kind of like something that happened to me and Jacquie on our honeymoon.

And finally, something that happened in San Diego

Lastly, on July 4, there was a malfunction at the Big Bay Boom fireworks show in San Diego.

All the fireworks went off at once. Which I think wasn’t a bad thing. And neither do the hosts of the Young Turks who comment about it here.

What I like more than their commentary is the closed caption from the video. YouTube seems to be Beta Testing some kind of automatic captioning software. But the results aren’t very clear. In fact the translation of the above clip reads more like YouTube has come up with a Concrete Poet application:

right but i will say this
i would have preferred that
as opposed to what I saw last night
at the fireworks show humming different
and sometimes quicker is better um…
interested five no i don’t know
cartoon violence you’ve seen them all
after like after like two minutes I’m like
often alum got I’ve seen this fire
and that’s what I was just another analogy pioneer
that pilots i think is the greatest fireworks as in a long time
part number one i’m so tired of the fifty minute fireworks are you all there
is another log all that what’s going on
that one spread by god and i got it i’ve
seen a for forty two years trade
padega
this indulgence as i a lot
second of all
it looks like a real war
no fireworks that was like you don’t
know but like you to take this they
would get your revolution etcetera
facebook woolworth’s was this already
and there are a lot of stand that looks
like rack urself
rikki that this kind of bats
and all that story the same time
of totally be was a but added that a
bitter
civil that was my favorite fireworks and
as long as I remember
once the last time they were prescribed
by next i’d find it highly presitgious
student for like two minutes
you get over it because it’s the same
thing over and over again
stays up but i will say this and just a
little concerned about your obsession
with like how it looks like more of that
so we are
i don’t have a baptism character
now and i like him a look at a bad asses
on l.a. latest like something out of you
see every movement wants security fucked
up lisa
little concern now

Sorry. I know this blog post was rather disorderly. But you can forgive me. I grew up in a hovel in the Bronx.

Let’s put an end to bad advice about underwear

There has long existed a humorous trope, already a cliché by the time I was born. It’s the one about a mother’s advice to wear clean underpants in case you get into an accident. I never received such instruction myself. In fact, clean underwear was considered optional through much of my childhood, if memory serves correctly.

Underwear was just not something you discussed at the dining room table. Such garments could only be referred to through cryptic allusions and innuendo.

Not the face of a child wearing clean underwear. The author (circled) enjoying the third grade at St Helena's in the Bronx, NY. (Photo stolen from Patrick Scully's Facebook page).

When I first heard this supposedly wise admonition in my teen years, it felt as if my parents had been denying me some vital information. I couldn’t cross a street without worrying about the state of my underpants. What if I got hit by a car? What would the EMTs think?

But as I got older, I started to question if that was even sound–let alone realistic–guidance. Its premise, at the very least, is a shaky foundation on which to base your personal habits. In the first place, it assumes that every accident that could befall you will require the removal of your pants. What, all of a sudden we’re supposed to drop trou’ every time we stub our toe? I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t live in a world like that. I could try, but I wouldn’t like it. Mostly. To some degree.

The premise also takes a dualistic view of reality. According to this conventional wisdom, one wears clean underwear or one wears dirty underwear, and those are the only choices you get. What if you’re not interested in wearing undergarments? You tell a Scotsman that he can no longer go commando when he puts on a kilt. He’ll be furious with you. For your average Scotsman, it’s either dirty underwear, or no underwear at all, end of story.

There is also a problem with timing. The adage presumes either that you will get into an accident as soon as you put on a clean pair of underpants, or it presumes that the underpants will remain clean up until the time of your accident. If I got into an accident every time I put on a fresh pair of boxers, it probably wouldn’t take me very long to start wearing a kilt in the traditional way, instead. But let’s say you take your mother’s advice and you put on clean underwear before you start your day. You hope that when you do finally get into some bloody car accident, the EMTs will be able to look down on your mangled body with a smile. How impressed and satisfied they will be with your forethought as they peel your underwear off the pavement with a king size Spackle knife, along with whatever else remains of you.

Daniel in the Lions' Den by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1614/1616, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Here Rubens depicts the moment that Daniel, realising that God has saved him from the lions, offers another prayer that his highly prized underwear has remained immaculate throughout the ordeal, in the event of being seen in soiled underwear by King Darius' men once they've finally released him.

To be fair, most of us can get through most days without having to take our pants off in public, accident or no. But suppose you were a postal worker, and you’ve just eaten some bad sushi, and some dogs chase you for most of the afternoon, but when you finally do outrun them, there’s a huge line for the bathroom at Starbuck’s. Then, as you’re running out of Starbucks to use the bathroom in the Starbucks next door, a giant anvil lands on your head, followed by a grand piano. Your underwear is probably not going to look so good, despite your best efforts to keep it clean through a long and trying day.

And here’s another problem. What if this clean underwear thing takes off and everybody starts doing it. What happens when there’s a big aviation disaster in which each and every passenger and crew is wearing a brand new pair of Fruit-of-the-Loom. Some of them still with the pins attached. Think of all the hours that could have been saved identifying disembodied torsos if each person were, instead, wearing underwear befitting their station in life.

Now it’s hard to ask air travelers to get on a flight with dirty underwear. It should be required, however, at the very least for business class passengers to wear clean underwear, while those in coach should be required to wear the same underwear on their flight as they’ve been wearing for the last week. (You’ll know you’ve worn your underwear long enough if you’ve started to develop a rash). This will ensure an expedited identification of cadavers, in case of an accident. And one word to those who fly coach, I wouldn’t worry too much about the odor in your cabin section. Chances are that if you’re flying coach, you probably smell like shit anyway.

You see? There are just too many variables to make this clean underwear work. Practically speaking, it pretty much requires one to constantly change their underwear. So the adage shouldn’t be to wear clean underwear in case of an accident, but to not forget to bring 150 changes of underwear which will you use throughout a typical day, in the event of an accident.

We’re better than you

Now that New York has been destroyed, Auckland is rubbing its hands in glee, anxious to fill the cultural gap as the premier city of the anglophone world.

The horrible bruising the Big Apple received in the arms of Hurricane Irene should be seen as a great opportunity, not just for Auckland to finally not suck in comparison to New York. But an opportunity for New Yorkers, themselves.

If you live in New York, and you’ve drowned, you might consider how moving to Auckland will improve your circumstances.

Here are three reasons why.

1. Superior Climate

Wouldn’t you love to live in a place where the temperature never soars above 80 nor sinks below 70? Where you are constantly refreshed by gentle trade winds, and where cocktails are served by sea turtles wearing cute little bow ties? Well, in Auckland, we wish we could too, so get over yourself.

A view of Eden Park, looking northeast from Sandringham Road, and a five minute walk from my house. Eleven of the 48 Rugby World Cup matches will be played at Eden Park. The surrounding residents look forward with great anticipation to the French Rugby fans urinating on our public and private infrastructure, just as they do in New York. The World Cup begins September 9, attracting something like 75,000 drunken foreigners to this city.

2. Superior Agriculture

Most New Yorkers weren’t prepared for the devastating affect Hurricane Irene would have on their flocks. Consequently, their sheep at this moment are being herded like cattle into high school gymnasiums. The luckier ones are shitting on their owners’ friends’ futons. And the luckiest ones have been able to make special friends of their own. Auckland presents a different story. You might think that story ends in a slaughter house. But it doesn’t. That’s just the beginning. It then goes to the part where you have a little too much to drink, but thank god the kebab shop is still open. But the story still doesn’t end there. Because after you’ve wolfed down your doner kebab, you say to yourself, “holy crap, I’m going to vomit.” But the story still isn’t over, because even though you’ve completely missed your toilet bowl, your cat is showing a keen interest in what’s been spewed on the bathroom floor, and the cycle of life continues.

Fresh lamb, warmed over, resting on a pleasant Saturday afternoon, not too far from their whoring mother.

 

3. Superior Lifestyle, Fantastic People

Close your eyes. Imagine yourself standing in a parking lot. You’re in New Zealand, so you’ll have to imagine yourself standing in a ‘car park’. I don’t use that term, myself, because I don’t like the idea of my car having fun without me. I’m not sure what Kiwis mean by car park. Is it a park where you can toss your frisby and your car will catch it in mid-air? Or is it the kind of park with water luges and roller coasters and rides that go in circle until you vomit and then all the cats come around to check out what’s been spewed on the ground? Well, no matter what kind of park it is, you’re standing in it. And you’re having a good time. At least you’re imagining that you’re having a good time. (I hope you’re still keeping your eyes closed). Now imagine yourself standing in the car park with a few friends. Perhaps one of them is smiling. Maybe another one is looking at his camera and realizing that the photograph of the hazy, rain-disturbed murk off the coast of Piha is actually not as interesting as he thought it would have been. Perhaps you have your hands on your hips because the ocean that you are looking over from the car park at the top of the coastal ridge is somehow displeasing to you.

Now with that picture in mind, open your eyes and look at the photograph below.

In Auckland, you don't have to imagine yourself having a good time.

Lost Sleep

So I haven’t slept in the last day. Big deal. There are tons of things I haven’t done in the last day, more or less. I haven’t littered. I haven’t shoplifted from a book store.  I haven’t urinated on my upstairs neighbor’s mailbox. So why is everybody fixating on this particular thing as if it were the end of the world? They wag their fingers chidingly. “You need a decent night’s sleep,” they say. “Like a dolphin needs a hole in its head. Going without one is a risk to your physical and mental health.” But I’ve gone without a dolphin all my life. You don’t see me running around with mental problems. The fact is people don’t want the truth to be known. The less you sleep, the farther you see into The Beyond.

The Beyond.

Sleeplessness begets hitherto unimaginable powers such as the ability to detect in others their unspoken determination to kill me. This group, coincidentally, includes anyone who has spoken with me for more than five minutes, read my blog or heard about me. Jacquie says I’m being “paranoid.” Call it what you will, this power is a lot better than paranoia. And anyone can have this power. If you go without sleep for a day, you too will detect in others the unspoken determination to kill me.

Closeup. Left armpit. Deadly white-tailed spiders. Introduced to New Zealand from Australia in the early 19th century. Good thing I found them when I did. I almost missed them. They were traveling under an assumed name. They planned it all ahead. In the early 19th century. They hunt at night, leaping many times their body length like the cast from West Side Story, only with one thing on their minds: to predate on a defenseless household pet (me.) Maybe also to win a Tony. So two things on their minds. Oh, and to eat, and to get laid. Which probably happens at the same time, knowing those types. You know. (Wink Wink) Arachnids.

People also say if you don’t sleep, you don’t dream, but that’s not true because I had this dream that I went to Glengarry Wines for a non-Zealand vintage. But I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for. So I stood for a moment looking perplexed––you know, trying to look like a New Zealander––when this clerk comes up to me and says, “How can I help you?” I smiled. “I’m not sure, exactly,” I said. “I guess I’m looking for something cheap and white. Like me.” The clerk laughed, which proves that I was dreaming, and if you want more proof, Sir Edmund Hillary defrosted my Fisher & Paykel Elba RF 249 fridge because a faulty gasket in the door had led to a build-up of moist air in the compartment that condensed too fast for the poor refrigerator, and later turned into a thick carapace of ice, partially blocking egress to and from The Beyond, a problem that was not covered under warranty. (Figures). But Hillary knew what to do. (Of course.) (Show off). He said, “Tenzing and I faced this same problem on Everest. Good thing we’d had a couple of screwdrivers on the way up.”

Then things got really stupid, like a bad photograph taken with a shitty camera by a poor craftsman who blathers on and on about his tools, which I never saw a problem with, incidentally, since if the poor craftsmen had a little more money, they could afford tools they wouldn’t blame, but I digress.

I went to art school.

The dream had turned into a nightmare in which I read a story somewhere about a survey of travel “experts” who said that New Zealand was the second hottest destination this year after New York City so I knew that I finally had fallen asleep.